Saturday, January 3, 2009

Red Cliff

R3 Hong Kong

Legendary director John Woo (A Better Tomorrow, The Killer) returns to Asia after fifteen years in Hollywood with Red Cliff, his adaptation of the Chinese classic, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Woo's epic is much more faithful and grand than the recent Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon, but the director still puts his own personal stamp on the material, concentrating on his human heroes, their personal relationships, and above all the brotherhood they forge in the heat of battle. The first of two films chronicling the legendary battle, Red Cliff is without doubt the Chinese film event of the year.

Re-teaming with Woo for the first time since 1992's Hard Boiled is Tony Leung Chiu Wai, fresh from his Golden Horse Award-winning turn in Lust, Caution. Leung plays the role of strategist Zhou Yu, and stepped in to help old friend John Woo when original lead Chow Yun Fat vacated the leading role. Rounding out the all-star cast are Kaneshiro Takeshi (The Warlords), Chang Chen (The Go Master), Zhang Feng Yi (The Emperor and the Assassin), Vicki Zhao (Shaolin Soccer), Hu Jun (Infernal Affairs 2), Japanese actor Nakamura Shidou (Fearless), and in her debut performance, Taiwanese model Lin Chi Ling.

208 A.D., The Battle of Chang Ban. Liu Bei (You Yong) and his followers narrowly escape the armies of Prime Minister Cao Cao (Zhang Feng Yi), but Cao Cao's lust for power continues to grow. Fearing that Liu Bei and the Kingdom of Shu cannot oppose Cao Cao, strategist Zhuge Liang (Kaneshiro Takeshi) proposes an alliance with the Kingdom of Wu. However, Wu ruler Sun Quan (Chang Chen) is uncertain on challenging Cao Cao. Zhuge Liang instead looks to persuade Sun Quan's chief strategist Zhou Yu (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), and discovers in Zhou a kindred spirit versed in the arts as well as battle. The two men form an instant bond, and decide to battle Cao Cao at the water port of Red Cliff. Their alliance comes not a moment too soon, as Cao Cao approaches with an army that vastly outnumbers the combined Wu and Shu forces. But Zhuge Liang has a plan - one that will hopefully enable the smaller force to emerge victorious.

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